Aussie Universities ‘Fail’ on Climate Change Risk
11 February 2015 at 9:49 am
Australian and UK universities have rated from ‘poorly’ to ‘abysmal’ in a global index of the world’s leading universities over their endeavours to manage climate change risk.
The Not for Profit Asset Owners Disclosure Project’s (AODP) 2014-15 Global Universities Index has revealed what is says is a “catastrophic picture of inaction by almost all universities” invited to participate including 37 Australian universities.
The Index shows that with 98 percent of the universities received a D-rating for abysmal management, or an X-rating, for having no publicly available information regarding their management of climate change risk.
Only two Australian universities received as high as a D-rating – Charles Sturt University in South Australia which was placed at a world ranking of 13 and the University of Sydney which was ranked 28th.
The remaining 35 Australian universities, including Melbourne University, Queensland University of Technology and Curtin University in WA recieved X-ratings and a were ranked 68th in the Global Index.
"This is the first survey in the world to look holistically at Universities' endeavours to manage the systemic risks posed to their portfolios," Dr John Hewson, Chair of the AODP said.
The Asset Owners Disclosure Project says it’s an independent Not for Profit global organisation whose objective is to protect members' retirement savings from the risks posed by climate change by improving the level of disclosure and industry best practice.
The Global Universities Index rated 278 of the world's leading universities on climate change risk. Universities have been rated across a range of factors, including transparency, risk management, low-carbon investment, active ownership and investment chain alignment.
The US led the world in the ratings, being the only country to have universities receive ratings above a D.
“Indeed, the US occupied all of the top 10 university position, and 17 of the top 25 university positions, despite the high proportion of D rated universities. However, 93 percent of universities in the US received a D- or X-rating. All universities from other jurisdictions fared extremely poorly,” Dr Hewson said.
"It is shocking that universities – thought to be at the cutting edge of innovation and problem-solving – cannot grasp the simple mathematics of wasted capital and the need for more transparency in investing, not less.
“Universities in the UK and Australia were rated poorly, despite the long-running divestment campaigns in both countries having intensified in recent months and a swathe of research produced by these institutions indicating that the risks that climate change pose to financial markets are significant.
"Oxford University, Cambridge University, the London School of Economics, University College London – their academics are leading the discussion on climate change, risk and stranded assets, yet none of the universities have a plan to safeguard their finances.
"Universities must show that they have learnt the lessons of the Global Financial Crisis and manage the approaching sub-clime crisis transparently."
Only five universities globally responded to requests for information the report said.
"The US-China deal and positive outcomes from the UN Climate Summit and COP20 indicate that the 2°C limit to global warming may be imposed. Universities, like any investor, must ensure that they are prepared for the stranded asset risk that this heralds," Julian Poulter, Chief Executive Officer of the AODP said.
"Many of the universities that we have rated lead the world in academic rankings but are lagging well behind pension funds and insurers in managing climate risk."